Gregory M. Kerwin, Ballot Position No. 82
Read Kerwin’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
Answers to Questions
1. In view of sharply declining state appropriations, what steps should Penn State be taking to secure its financial future?
We need to reexamine our priorities. In the last decade or so, there have been a significant number of capital improvements made at University Park. These are beautiful edifices which bring much pride to our school. But we are simply at a point where the pace of improvements must be slowed. If we can’t fill the buildings with students because they can’t afford to go to Penn State, what good are they?
We must examine more closely our Commonwealth campuses as a greater source of student enrollment and revenue. I think some of them have been neglected for years at the expense of projects developed at the Main campus. Others perhaps should be consolidated for greater efficiencies. No option should be off the table.
We must look at scholarships, endowments and our alumni as resources, many of whom have been tremendously generous in the past. We must tighten our belts and look at better controls on our spending. Obviously, that is not popular but the very survival of our University as we know it depends on it. Finally, we must do more to convince our legislators in Harrisburg, that funding for Penn State is an investment in the future. This requires an honest presentation on exactly what it takes to run Penn State. I am absolutely convinced that a quality education from Penn Sate pays back our Commonwealth many times over in terms of productive, taxpaying citizens, whether they are scientists, IT people, doctors, teachers, writers, artists, lawyers or even legislators.
2. The rising cost of tuition nationally is making college less affordable for many students. Outline the steps you believe Penn State should be taking to address the issue.
This question is related to question number 1. We must find ways to make a Penn State education more affordable for our students. Many of our branch campuses offer four year degrees. I believe we should expand on these programs and add more at campuses that are growing and are profitable. This will help keep the cost down for our students and in the end provide them with a quality education and degree from Penn State.
We should look at programs which financially assist students who work part time; look into ways to be more creative with student loan programs, alumni partnered internships, educational savings accounts, scholarships and endowments.
All across the country, states are cutting back on their funding for higher education. It is not a unique problem for Penn State. While government funding has gone down, tuition costs have steadily increased. We need to learn from and exchange ideas with other states on what they are doing to address the problem. With so many young people impacted, solutions will be found.
We must constantly remind our leaders and politicians that the purpose and commitment of the legislature’s Act of April 1, 1863, in creating Penn State as the only land-grant institution, was to provide an affordable, quality education for the common man and woman of ordinary means.
3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?
The federal Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 declared its purpose “To promote liberal and practical education in the several pursuits and professions of life.” A year later the Pennsylvania legislature designated Penn State the state’s only land-grant institution. Under the Morrill Act, the Commonwealth received 780,000 acres of land which it sold and converted into a $500,000 bond yielding a 6 percent interest return which was paid to Penn State. In return, Penn State expanded its academic programs which, for one hundred and fifty years, have provided untold benefits to the citizens of Pennsylvania, the United States and to the world, for that matter. The form of Penn State’s land-grant mission in the 21st century should remain the same: teaching, research, and public service. How we foster and promote those goals is what is changing.
I believe we need to remain a public institution. We have faced serious challenges to our institution in the past, many from short-sighted politicians with little understanding of what it means to be part of the Penn State family. Not with a sense of arrogance, but with a sense of pride and confidence, we will overcome these latest challenges.